By Laura Rich
July 27, 2010

The administration’s CTO says the plan to improve health-care IT will take time — it’s not about ‘industrial policy,’ but about ‘building infrastructure for the 21st century.’

by Laura Rich, contributor

The White House hasn’t been dragging its feet on health-care IT, despite how it looks. There has been an intentional effort to lay out a strategy and take time to implement it, said Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer at the White House, at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference.

“For this particular chunk of money, it was never meant to be spent right away. We knew the money would be available in 2011,” he said. So his group used the intervening period to “define the rules of the road for the collaboration model. We wanted to get the data standards and policy right.”

Chopra said the White House expects 50,000 jobs will be generated by its effort to roll out technology into the health care process, and pointed to a general growth in investments in health care IT, up to 34% of all venture capital spending in 2009, according to the National Venture Capital Association, even as the general venture capital market fell 37% in the same period. He added that “every executive I’ve communicated with” at the conference “said that health care sector is in the top three areas of growth for their firms.”

But is the White House just throwing money at a problem in a sort of industrial policy fashion?

“We are not in favor of industrial policy,” said Chopra. “The president said to use this moment not only to attack problems, but use it to build infrastructure for the twenty-first century.”

Chopra laid out some of the efforts under way in the “open government” initiative he oversees, including using technology to create more transparency at federal agencies. “In two years, there shouldn’t be a decision made in Washington without thoughtful public input.”

In health care in particular, he said, he expected the initiative to “catalyze innovation. I’d bet on the notion of wireless potential to improve health care.”

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